Living In a Hearing World.

11/25/2011
In a society where it is easy to get too comfortable in our own shoes, it is young women like 21-year-old Cherie King from Lake Arrowhead who make us take a step back and see life from a different perspective. For King, going about her day is no ordinary routine. However, King does not let being deaf stand in the way of living a normal lifestyle. Although she has the ability to drive and shop just like any other 21-year-old, she often finds road bumps in the simplest of tasks because so little assistance is made available to the deaf culture- even with over 20 Million deaf and hard of hearing citizens in the United States alone.

Surprisingly, interpreters are difficult to find. “Even with my school, I was lucky to get an interpreter. Actually, I fought for one,” King explained. With two other deaf students in enrollment at her school, the administration and district officials pushed back on hiring an interpreter for far too long.
King went on to describe being on the phone with customer service as difficult because most are unprepared to handle the situation. Even supervisors aren’t prepared and have no idea how to solve the problem, she continues.
With the last census for the deaf having been held in 1931 by the Census Bureau, even the 20 Million-person estimate could be an underestimate when it comes to the number of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in our country. To think that we are unable to provide such a vast number of people with the services they need is astonishing.
Living in a hearing world doesn’t stop King, though. Although she cannot hear, her reflexes are far more developed than those of most hearing individuals. And while we may be quick to assume tasks like driving are impossible for those living within the deaf culture, King explains that many with hearing disabilities are able to drive, in fact, the deaf can be very reflexive; and are able to focus easily when driving.
When she’s not in school, Cherie enjoys spending time with friends, however, at times even that can become a problem. King describes her time with friends as difficult because she will often miss jokes and have to ask them what was just said. Even so much as seeing a movie can be daunting. She must make sure that the movie she wants to see is playing in a theater that has rear-view captioning or full captioning on the screen. While the number of captioned movie theaters is fairly small, advances in technology are making these kinds of activities much easier for her, especially since she has honed in on her skill for reading lips.
Although she has developed the ability to read lips well, meeting new people is sometimes a challenge as well. “I still find it difficult understanding some people. Whenever I meet someone new, it takes me a while to understand them. Each person speaks a bit differently,” she added.
Being in a mainstream school as a young child surely played a large role in the development of her lip-reading skills, however, even a regular school day was different for her. King spent time in classes with her hearing peers and at the end of the day would have a class with her deaf classmates where they would learn more about deafness and refresh what was learned that day.
Kings fondest memory of her experiences at school may be what ultimately led her towards a passion for travel, accepted in the People to People Student Ambassador Program, King was able to travel abroad for the first time in her life, and visited France, Italy, Austria, and Switzerland. She then went on to travel abroad with Semester at Sea last Fall.
Cherie, a self-proclaimed travel bee, finds that even her true passion and love for seeing the world can be a frustrating one for her. As if traveling isn’t already an excursion in and of itself, King makes moves to encourage and help deaf travelers get the most out of their love for travel. Her biography on her website makes clear her motivations, what I am passionate about is trying to make traveling easier for deaf people. I want to share with the world what it is like to be deaf, and the struggles that come with it.
King spends time participating in volunteer groups whenever possible but she really focuses on spreading the word and lifestyle of the deaf culture, and helping other deaf travelers get the most out of their experiences. There is so much that needs to change in order for the deaf and hard of hearing to share the experiences that most individuals so often take for granted.
If there is one thing that she could change, King might say she would change how the world sees being deaf. She explains,”when people say that they feel so sorry for me or that my disability is really horrible, I find it quite offensive… it makes me unique. I am proud of my culture. So, don’t feel so sorry for me!” Such words are not only endearing and show resilience, but also motivational. It is my hope that one day our country will be able to provide the deaf culture with all that is needed for individuals like Cherie King to flourish naturally and without hardships that could otherwise be easily prevented. Until that time comes, it is important to understand that we should occasionally step away from those things most comfortable to us in order to learn about sub-cultures that make our country so well-rounded and inspiring.